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Majority sides with hotel in lawsuit stemming from molestation

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A divided Indiana Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment for a hotel, its owner and the hotel franchisor that the hotel’s insurance company had no duty to defend a civil complaint brought by a minor motel guest who was molested by an off-duty employee.

R.H.M. was a guest at the New Castle Holiday Inn Express owned by Anil Megha when employee Michael Forshey entered his locked room at night and molested him. Forshey has been convicted of child molestation. R.H.M.’s mom sued the hotel, the franchisor Holiday Hospitality and Megha, claiming, among other things, battery, negligent retention and supervision, and negligent hiring.

AMCO Insurance Co., which insured the Holiday Inn Express, claimed it owed no coverage for any liability from the complaint and it had no duty to defend any of the defendants. Holiday Hospitality and Megha were listed as additional insureds. The policy expressly disclaimed coverage for acts of molestation or abuse by excluding any bodily injury or personal or advertising injury arising from the actual or threatened abuse or molestation by anyone of any person while in the care, custody or control of the insured.”

The trial court ruled in favor of the defendants, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, finding a genuine issue of material fact as to whether R.H.M. was in the care, custody or control of the hotel at the time of the molestation.

In Holiday Hospitality Franchising, Inc. v. AMCO Insurance Company, 33S01-1206-CT-312, Justice Steven David, writing for the majority, affirmed summary judgment for the insurance company. Focusing on the “care, custody or control” portion of the policy and using those terms’ definitions from Webster’s Dictionary, David and Justices Mark Massa and Loretta Rush found the child was not in the custody or control of the hotel, but he was in the care of the hotel at the time of the molestation.

“Simply put, we believe these facts reflect precisely the sort of scenario contemplated by the parties to be excluded from coverage when they agreed to the insurance contract,” David wrote.  
 
Chief Justice Brent Dickson concurred in a separate opinion, believing the proper understanding of “care” is established by Indiana law that a hotel guest is considered a business invitee and is entitled to a reasonable duty of care. In this case, “care” exists as a matter of law, so the exclusion applies.

Justice Robert Rucker dissented, believing it should be up to the trier of fact as to whether R.H.M. was under the control or care of the hotel.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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